The schedule below is subject to revision. I have included the topics we would ideally discuss, as they relate to the overarching historical currents in the field and the relation of particular ideas to these, but we may not have time for all. Moreover, other interesting topics might come up that relate to the students' backgrounds and studies, which may displace some of the less central topics below. I will revise the syllabus as we go on to reflect the topics we actually discuss in depth.
|Day||Date||Topic||Readings and Assignments|
|Tu||Aug 25||Introduction. Grammatical traditions outside Europe. Overview of landmarks in linguistic ideas in the
west. Greeks; medieval European views; 16th-18th century modern
language grammarians; Wilhelm von Humboldt and realization of range of
variation but also commonalities. He raises the question: what do all
languages have in common despite all the variation in language types
and structures? The idea of universalism. Big picture: Repeated swings
between focus on variation (and lack of constraints on it) vs. focus
on universal similarities / commonalities in human lgs/cultures.
|No required reading, but go over Owlspace Notes. Recommended as
overview reading: Pedersen (1931). Ch. 1 & 2
|Th||Aug 27||Sir William Jones posits common source for Latin, Greek, Sanskrit (and Germanic and Celtic). Early comparative-historical linguists (Bopp, Grimm, Schleicher). Proto-Indo-European hypothesized; sound correspondences described; sound changes identified; family tree model; proto-languages; search for the "Proto-Indo-European homeland"; first attempts at reconstructions.||No required reading, but go over Owlspace Notes. Recommended:
continue reading Pedersen (1931); can just read parts on the people
mentioned in this schedule.
|Tu||Sep 1||O&B 1. The "Neogrammarian Manifesto". Comparative linguistics becomes 'Modern Linguistics'. Critiques of earlier phase of comparative linguistics. What is Linguistics, Take 1. Call to establish Linguistics as a science, Take 1.||Osthoff and Brugmann (1878). Also read thumbnail bio of Brugmann (left)|
|O&B 2. Regularity of Sound change.
Regularity (generalization) and science. Call to investigate present-day
"dialects" (but: largely limited to Europe). Uniformitarianism:
languages of ancient times were not fundamentally different, in
nature, function, or diachronic processes, from modern languages.
|Th||Sep 3||O&B 3. More on sound change; seeds of sociolinguistics. Sound laws (regularity) vs. principled exceptions (analogy; other sporadic but known processes). Accounting for other exceptions: borrowing. Modern controversy: exceptionless but slow change (leaving residues in population that look non-regular but had just not spread all the way through speech community) vs. lexical diffusion (stepwise spread through lexicon). Attempts to resolve the controversy: Labov and Bybee posit division in phonological processes that lead to different historical effects ("Neogrammarian sound change" vs. other types of sound changes). But: divisions are different--so far, there is no universally agreed typology of sound changes in terms of regularity and spread as far as I know, but I am not a sociolinguist).|| Osthoff and Brugmann (1878) cont.
|Tu||Sep 8||Saussure 1. Casting off the diachronic. The beginnings of structuralism. What is Linguistics, Take 2. A new distinction: 'A Language' (Langue) as a system of social Signs (form-meaning units), vs. Speaking (Parole), the speech actions of the individual.||Saussure (1916) Chapters 1-5.
Also read thumbnail bio of Saussure.
|Th||Sep 10||Saussure 2. The Saussurian view of how language works. Fundamental principles/properties of language in general: What is language, Take 1. What is the proper study of Linguistics--how do we cut out the related but inessential aspects of human language so that we can properly look at a coherent and investigable part of it.||
Saussure (1916) Ch. 1-5 cont.
|Tu||Sep 15||Saussure 3. The Sign as a psychological yet simultaneously social unit: An associative link between 'concept' (Signifié) and 'sound image' (Signifiant), but only the part shared by a some community. The arbitrariness of the Sign, Take 1.||Saussure (1916) Part I General
Principles, Chapters 1-2.
|Th||Sep 17||Saussure 4. Mutability of the sign; Static and evolutionary Linguistics.
Two dimensions of language: Synchrony and
Saussure Part I General Principles, Ch. 1-2 cont. Recommended: Harris and Taylor 1989.
Boas 1. Class question: What is Boas best known for today.
Background on 19th
century ideas of typology: morphological typology. Isolating,
agglutinating, polysynthetic, fusional (synthetic) . Boas as start of
a modern and empirical investigation of language structure. 19th century ideas of race,
language and culture; persistence and misuse in 20th century.
Boas' demonstration of the logical
independence of race ("physical type"), language, culture.
||Boas (1911), 1-20 (up to start of Grammatical Categories). Also
read thumbnail bio of Boas and Essay on Boas (links left).
|| Boas 2. Boas synthesizes phonetics knowledge and makes it into a
useful typological/descriptive framework for any language. Sound
structure. "Sound blindness." Grammatical
categories. Tense/aspect; gender, number.
|| Boas (1911) cont.
|| Boas 3. Grammatical categories cont.; gender and other nominal
classification systems. Obligatory
categories and their implications for relation of language and
thought. Adds a more scientific, systematic investigation of languages
to address the Humboldtian question of how a person's thoughts
relate to their language and/or culture--Big Question #1 in
Linguistics, stripped bare of folk ideas assuming tight correspondence of
language, thought, culture, aligning with presumed scale of cultural
superiority. A survey of some grammatical
categories/concepts, including some very unfamiliar to Europeans.
Boas claim: essential cognitive sameness of humans, thus: all lexical and
grammatical categories observed are POTENTIALLY available to all
languages, if the cultural conditions are right, i.e. if people need
to learn them, they will be able to and the language will adapt its
structures to the new concepts. Wide variation in categorization due to
differences in culture/environment (for some categories) and just due
to historical accident in others. If a language gets into a particular
historical channel it is perhaps more likely to develop a certain set
of distinctions rather than another one possible in the
variation-space of human linguistic categorization.
Does Boas' view entail UNIVERSALITY of certain concepts at a pan-human
level? Are there universal semantic primitives, e.g. number concepts?
(if so, possible problem with Piraha.)
|| Boas (1911) cont.
Side question for those who have heard of this idea: What is the relation of "Language of Thought" posited by
Pinker, Fodor, and Pylyshyn (symbolic, predicate-logic type
cognitive system), to Boas's ideas on universals? (Boas said nothing
about combining categories, just looked at them paradigmatically, so
we don't know if he would have gone for a logic-type "underlying
universal grammar" or "universal logical form".
Open question: Would he have believed in
pre-existing cognitive categories? Introductory on Neo-Whorfians, who
see a balance between universalism (universal pre-linguistic
cognitive categories) and wide variation in possible lexical and
grammatical structures that can influence cognitive processing.
||Discussion of some experimental results
showing how lingustic categories such as gender influence
non-linguistic behavior: thought; memory; gesture.
Next up: Sapir, who continues the
Boasian descriptivist tradition but adds another universalist overlay.
||Sapir 1. What is language, Take 2. How is language different from other
human social and cultural phenomena? Relation to interjections,
onomotopoeia. Relation of Sapir's ideas to the related questions "Is thought
distinct from language? Is there a "Language of Thought" that allows us
to think WITHOUT language? ? ||First
response essay due Tuesday Sapir (1921), Ch. 1, pp. 3-23. Also
read corresponding part of Essay on Sapir (1921) on website; and
thumbnail bio of Sapir on website.
||No class meeting--instructor goes to a conference. Use class time to read more of the full Sapir excerpt. It is a
fairly long reading. [Note on Ch. 2 reading: Pp. 42-53 up to note 15 are recommended as useful background reading if
this material is not familiar to you. Grad students in Ling should
read the whole piece.]
||Sapir (1921) Sapir Ch. 2, 24-41, 53-56 and Essay on Sapir
(1921), section on Ch. 2. Ch. 4, 56-82
||Midterm break no class
||Sapir 2. The word and its structure. Types of
morphemes. Sound categories of language. Two levels of sounds: the
"ideal" (= idealized, in-the-mind) sound system, vs. actual sound
productions. Establishment of the seminal concept of the
phoneme. Categorization of sounds and words. Lexical
categorization and its implications. Typological properties of languages.
||[Note on reading repeated from above: Pp.
42-53 up to note 15 are recommended as useful background reading if
this material is not familiar to you. Grad students in Ling should
read the whole piece.]
||Sapir (1921) Sapir Ch. 2, 24-41, 53-56. Ch. 4, 56-82
Kinds of concepts (meaning units) and their relation to linguistic
form. 4 concept types with prototypically corresponding form types.
Iconicity in the relation of form and content: "size" or "weight" or
"complexity" of form has an overall correlation with "richness" or
"elaboration" of conceptual content. Questions about differences in
types of lexical concepts (Sapir calls them "concrete concepts".) Possible but needs more research.||
Sapir (1921) Ch. 5, 82-119
||Sapir 4. Sapir's typology of concept types as an
expansion on Antoine Meillet's lexical vs. grammatical words
contrast. More on the concept and form types he proposes. Is his categorization valid
for all languages? Striking a balance between universality and variability.
||Sapir (1921) Ch. 5, 82-119 cont.
||Tu||Oct 27 ||Bloomfield
1. Bloomfield's model of communication: Basic sketch of a linguistic
event. [relates to Karl Bühler's 1930s model of communication,
which is essentially similar to Michael Reddy's "conduit" metaphor
(which is, in essence, a folk model of communication)]. Relation of
Bloomfieldian linguistics to new 20th century intellectual currents:
materialism; logical positivism; behaviorism. Despite the new
currents, Bloomfield's approach maintains faithfulness to Boasian
descriptivism. || Bloomfield (1933), Chapter 2. Also read thumbnail
bio of Bloomfield.
Linguistics as a science, Take 2.
Bloomfield's (1933) conception of meaning. [If time,
comparison with Bloomfield (1914).] Behaviorist description of
meaning in terms of external behaviors. Bloomfield's critique of
Wundt's 'mentalism' vs. early behaviorism. Later contrast: Skinnerian
behaviorism vs. modern mentalism (cognitivism). ||Bloomfield
(1933), Chapter 9
|Tu||Nov 3 ||Whorf 1. Back to Big
Question 1, how do linguistic categories relate to a) categories of
thought; b) process of thought; c) cultur-specific categories and
behaviors. Introduction of the idea of covert categories (no overt
markers, but discernible differences in linguistic behavior). This is
another example of abstract categories, somewhat like Sapir's zero
marking, that many linguists rejected at first. Larger contrast:
"Primitive" vs. "civilized modern" societies. Whorf's elevation of
the "primitive". (Impulse seems similar to Boas' egalitarianism; but
preference is now tilted toward the "primitive".) ||Whorf (1956)
Thinking in Primitive Communities, 65-86. Also read thumbnail bio of
Whorf. Second response essay due Tuesday
||Re: the Second Response Essay: Choose any
topic that relates to the authors we have studied and one or more
ideas they dealt with. You can compare authors' takes on a particular
topic, or deal with one author's idea, or relate one or more ideas to
what you have been studying in other courses or on your own. I'm happy
to discuss potential topics with you. See also Ling 403 Resources in Owlspace.
||Whorf 2. More on overt vs. covert categories ("cryptotypes"). Excursus:
example from typology: Shape-based linguistic categories. Types of
nominal classification: numeral classifier systems; noun
classification/gender systems (involving agreement); possessive
classifiers. [There is a 4th type, generic classifiers]. Descriptivist
tradition continued. ||Whorf (1956) Grammatical Categories,
||Whorf 3. More on various classification systems. Excursus/exemplification:
Verb systems; transitivity. Relation of basic clause constructions
(transitive; intransitive) to verb classes. Specific and generic
grammatical categories. Whorf's call for comparison of "similar
specific categories". Implication: taking grammatical typology beyond
the "morphological typology"--morpheme structure of the word--dominant
since Schleicher. Seeds of modern functional-typological approach to
grammar (Greenberg, Givón, Comrie and subsequent)
Universalists, Whorfians, and neo-Whorfians, on relation of language,
mind and culture (Big Question #1 in Linguistics).
||Whorf (1956), above readings cont.
||Hockett 1. Transition to
Big Question #2 in Linguistics (implied in Sapir, but
only central from Hockett to present-day linguistics): What, if anything,
is unique about human language, as a system of communication? Is it
qualitatively different from animal communication? or just different
in degree, in specifiable ways. Discussion of some parameters that
relate and distinguish human language from various animal
communication systems. The vocal/auditory
channel. Displacement. Reciprocality. Establishing Linguistics as a
science, Take 3. ||Hockett (1960).
Hockett 2. More on the "Design Features" of Language. Which features are
found, and to what extent, in various animal systems. Which, if any,
are unique to human language. What is "Duality of
Patterning". Arbitrariness, Take 2 ||Hockett (1960) cont.
Your thumbnail bio of a figure in the history
of Linguistics due Tuesday. Grace period if needed.
||Background to Chomskyan linguistics (a.k.a. formal linguistics,
generative linguistics). The shift in Linguistics to a focus on syntax
instead of phonology and morphology. The sentence becomes the basic
unit of analysis.
"Grammaticality": The idea of syntactic well-formedness of sentences
(different from semantic well-formedness or communicative
effectiveness). The competence/performance distinction. Competence is "what speakers
know" that makes it possible for them to generate syntactically
well-formed sentences ("grammatical" sentences, in descriptive not
prescriptive sense). Performance is factors that affect production
and comprehension of speech--memory limitations and lapses, speech
errors, mishearings. (Compare Saussure's parole - not the same but
"performance" is reminiscent of it.)
Lexicon vs. syntactic rules (phrase
structure rules plus transformations). Inspiration of Chomsky's model from
computational processes (von Neumann architecture). Symbol processing.
|| Grace period for thumbnail bio: turn in to
drop box by latest midnight Thursday night.
The computational/symbolic approach gains ground in American
linguistics. Language as an autonomous system, operating essentially
independently of meaning, or at least meaning is pushed to the
periphery in analysis and explanation. Explanations become totally
language-internal and structural.
interested in linguistic theory remain largely Jakobsonian/Prague
School structuralists. Earlier strands persist alongside the newer.
European language family specialists: philologists (19th century
traditions continuing into 20th); dialectologists (following
Neogrammarian call); grammarians (following centuries long traditions;
prescriptivism hardly gives way to descriptivism even this late).
Chomsky adopts Nativism as his solution to
what makes humans unique: "The language gene" and the syntactic structural
constraints it imposes. (Later: Parameter-setting model, allowing for
more variation than previously, and some minimal input from
experience/learning). How "the language gene" got there: mutation, but no
evolution. Chomsky's recent
specific answer to what makes language unique: recursion as a structural
principle of language. Now he says "broad" aspects of language did
evolve; but the crucial part of language that makes us human, namely,
recursion in the "narrow core" of language, did not evolve in response to the development of language
as a communicative system.
||Hauser, Fitch, Chomsky (2004)
||Thanksgiving, no class
Controversies. Pinker and Jackendoff's critique of specific
claims of Hauser et al. Pointing out how Chomsky's position is at odds
with his earlier positions, but he does not acknowledge it.||Pinker
and Jackendoff's response to Hauser et al.
||Summary; pulling ideas together. More on current controversies.
Last half of class: milk and cookies; bring a treat if you wish.
Third response essay: Most compelling issues in Linguistics for the Future?
(tracing some strand from work considered this semester)
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